BART riders may have been exposed to measles by a University of California at Berkeley student who traveled on trains in Contra Costa and Alameda counties last week while infected with the disease, officials said today.
Anyone who used the transit system between Tuesday, Feb. 4 and Friday, Feb. 7 may have been exposed to the measles virus and is urged to be on the lookout for possible symptoms, according to Contra Costa Health Services and BART officials. Symptoms usually begin between one to three weeks after exposure.
While the UC Berkeley student only traveled between the El Cerrito del Norte station and the Downtown Berkeley station, the virus is transmitted through the air and can live for up to two hours, potentially exposing people traveling on different train lines at different times, according to Contra Costa Health Services officials.
Riders who exhibit symptoms of measles, including a blotchy rash, fever, cough, runny nose, red and watery eyes, tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth or experience malaise are urged to seek medical attention immediately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The disease usually starts with a rash developing on the face and neck accompanied by a fever.
The rash then spreads down the body and usually lasts five or six days. The infected person is usually contagious for several days before and after the rash appears, according to the CDC.
Contra Costa Health Services, the California Department of Public Health, UC Berkeley and Berkeley Public Health are investigating the student’s movements and working to notify people who came into close contact.
BART uses industrial-strength disinfectant to clean its trains at the end of the each day, according to BART officials.
The student was not vaccinated and was likely infected with the disease during a recent trip abroad, according to Contra Costa Health Services officials. Before being diagnosed, the student spent time in the Berkeley community, attended classes on the UC Berkeley campus and used BART on several days.
No other measles infections related to this case have been identified, according to Contra Costa Health Services officials.
Those vaccinated or who have had measles in the past are unlikely to catch the disease, according to the CDC. However, those who have not been vaccinated are very likely to catch measles if they are exposed to the virus.
“Measles is a serious, highly contagious disease,” said Dr. Janet Berreman, health officer for the City of Berkeley.
“It spreads through the air, when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Fortunately, the measles vaccine is highly effective in preventing infection.”
According to the CDC, among children infected with measles, up to one in 20 will develop pneumonia, one out of 1,000 will develop encephalitis and one or two out of 1,000 will die. Measles can also cause pregnant women to have a miscarriage or give birth prematurely.
Contra Costa County residents can call county health services (925) 313-6740 or 211 and Berkeley residents can call (510) 981-5300 for more information. Additional information is also available at www.cdc.gov or http://cchealth.org/.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News